School change: The core curriculum/gen ed fiasco

by Steve Wyckoff on August 18, 2010

Is a great deal of discussion around school change is focusing on the dropout problem. In Kansas, the governor has formed a commission to study dropouts because it has become such an economic issue. As the demand for high skill workers increases dropouts are increasingly a burden on society.

I think one of the positive things that could be addressed is the core curriculum in K-12, and the gen ed curriculum in higher ed. Both of these curricula are at least 115 years old dating back to the Committee of 10, and are primarily focused on the liberal arts.

There was a time in our history when the liberal arts meant well educated. In fact, when I graduated from college in 1972 a liberal arts degree was the ticket to a good job. That’s no longer the case. In fact if you look at two aspects of a college degree, the skill level that the degree instills in graduate, and the demand for the degree in society, the liberal arts degree today is both low skill and low demand. In days past the liberal arts degree was low skill, but very much in high demand.

The second piece of the liberal arts education has to do with our students. The vast majority of our students feel that our core curriculum in K-12, and gen ed curriculum in higher ed, are boring and irrelevant. Boring and irrelevant are not good conditions under which learning can occur.

When you couple all of these issues is obvious to me that our core curriculum and the gen ed curriculum in higher Ed serve no purpose today. They are a relic of education past. We can make major strides to increase the engagement and the relevance of our curriculum for all students by redesigning the primary focus of our system.

What might that new focus be? I’m not sure I have an opinion yet, I need to think about it more. But it may include a focus on globalization, who knows. But if we really want school change, real school change, and to reduce the number of students who leave our system uneducated, then we should take a critical look at the core curriculum in K-12, and the gen ed curriculum in higher Ed. – Steve Wyckoff

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